Jimmy Garoppolo gets another chance to gain 49ers’ confidence

Next to Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo is the most photogenic quarterback in the NFL. But at least for the past few seasons, when the San Francisco 49ers looked at Garoppolo, they only saw the photo negative.

Her focus wasn’t on what Garoppolo could do, but what he couldn’t do.

He doesn’t have a Juggs machine for his right arm and his passes don’t leave contrails. He would rather blend into the background than be a commanding voice. His runnability doesn’t deter the defense. When Patrick Mahomes began taking control in Super Bowl LIV against Kansas City, Garoppolo seemed to shrink.

The 49ers responded in 2021 by trading three first-round draft picks to move up and take North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance third overall. The team was determined to leave Garoppolo but have been unsuccessful in attempts to trade him this offseason.

However, situations can change quickly in football, and the 49ers have taken a dramatic turn. After Lance fractured his ankle in the first quarter of the game against Seattle at the end of the season, Garoppolo stepped in – almost without preparation – and helped lead San Francisco to a 27-7 win.

Instead of relying on Brock Purdy, a seventh-round rookie pick, the 49ers have a quarterback who is 31-14 as a starter for them and helped them win the Super Bowl after the 2019 season and the NFC Championship game in reach last season.

Considering he underwent shoulder surgery in March, didn’t have a bouncing ball and threw on a sidefield away from the rest of the team in training camp, it’s remarkable that Garoppolo was able to make such a seamless transition back onto the field.

Niners coach Kyle Shanahan downplayed the notion that the playbook was being dramatically changed for the more mobile Lance, although seeing Garoppolo hanging on the ball on those read-option runs looked odd to many.

“We put in the same stuff last year too, so it’s not as big of a difference as people think,” the coach said this week. “You really run the exact same runs. Do you just want to pick up the gun and read someone, or do you want to hand it in and not read them? It’s not changing as much as people think.”

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) tries to pass the ball against the Seattle Seahawks.

Jimmy Garoppolo (10) returned as the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers against the Seattle Seahawks last week after Trey Lance sustained a season-ending ankle injury.

(Lachlan Cunningham/Associated Press)

It’s early days, but the pieces are in place for Garoppolo to salvage the season for the 49ers, who have prime-time games over the next two weeks. They host the Rams Sunday night in Denver and Monday night in Week 4.

Just a few weeks ago, Garoppolo signed a reduced contract to remain with the team as a backup. His old contract would have netted him $24.2 million that season. His new player is paying him a guaranteed $6.5 million with a chance of earning up to $16 million depending on playtime. His performance on Sunday earned him an additional $350,000 for playing at least 25% of the snaps in a 49ers win.

“If you’re Jimmy Garoppolo, you couldn’t ask for a better situation right now,” said former 49ers quarterback JT O’Sullivan, who now runs a digital platform, the QB School, where he tracks the quarterback’s position and achievements analyzed.

“Just the chance to play on that kind of squad, with those expectations of this organization… But it’s worth recognizing that the issues remain. Whatever the 49ers felt were the reasons they needed to get away from him, those issues are still there.”

Shanahan’s decision to switch from Garoppolo is a bit reminiscent of the Rams’ Sean McVay, who switched from Jared Goff. These offense-minded coaches saw the missing yards and explosive plays that didn’t happen, and those gaps began to overshadow the good things these quarterbacks could do.

While it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when perceptions of Garoppolo began to change, the 2019 playoffs are a good place to start. He hit some bad shots in a 27-10 win over Minnesota in the divisional round and was essentially handcuffed in the NFC title game against Green Bay the following week. He threw the ball just eight times in that 37-20 win over the Packers. Then came the Super Bowl, a showcase for Mahomes.

Not long after that, the 49ers toyed with the idea of ​​signing Tom Brady. (Garoppolo began his NFL career as Brady’s backup in New England.) Trading for Lance set the stage for San Francisco’s big move in the 2021 draft.

Garoppolo got the rock star treatment when he traded to the 49ers in the 2017 season and ended the year winning his first five starts. However, he suffered a knee injury in Week 3 of the following season and was sidelined for the remainder of the year. The pendulum swung one way and then the other.

Now he has the chance to redefine himself again. Jimmy Garoppolo gets another chance to gain 49ers’ confidence

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